We are bidding goodbye to 2012 in a few hours, I could go into the usual platitude and hope 2013 will bring changes, better days for the country and humanity, and while I of course do wish these things, I don’t think it’s worth writing about it, 2013 for me will be another year of blogging as usual, with some noodles, daily life reports and more pertinent posts…the usual, and I hope you readers will keep on reading like you have been all these years (we are talking 8 years of blog entries here!)
Instead of wishing for better days, I will just count my blessings and be grateful. I am grateful we are done with our previous landlord and his monetary greed. Grateful to be settled into our new place and reasonably rested from the packing and moving trauma, grateful for a bigger flat at a cheaper rent than our older one. I am of course grateful for having made it an entire year in Mumbai without going crazy this time around. Grateful for being healthy, not all have that chance, grateful for my family, and Internet so I can keep in touch with them. Grateful for my friends, it goes without saying, you guys know who you are…Grateful for all that I have and the life I live, even if at times I want to scream….who doesn’t?
And here is to 2013, and all the happy days it will bring punctuated inevitably by a few crazy days.
Happy New Year to you all!
I might have been in the boxes till my neck, then in post relocation vegetative state, but I have been following the news, and the one no one in India should have missed is the brutal Gang Rape of a 23 years old girl in Delhi, a rape that ended with the victim loosing her whole intestine, spending an agonizing nearly 2 weeks in hospital to finally succumb last night.
If you are reading this blog from abroad, Google it, you will get the details, but I warn you they aren’t for the faint hearted.
The good new is that for once the country is standing up for that girl, they just had one rape too many, the people took the streets in most cities, voicing their anger over how crimes against women have been handled all these years, it’s the tale of a population that is sick and tired of a government that is doing nothing to ensure the safety of all. I for myself hope the protests will continue, and that things will change, if not all at once, fast enough.
I myself have had more than enough to hear some of the educated Elite, both male and female question the motive of a girl out at 9pm, of people wanting to lessen a molester’s crime finding flaws in how the victim was dressed or where she was. I’m sick to hear that a girl with enough courage to report a crime is likely to end up being raped some more by the police. Things need to change, but sadly not where people think it should start. In the past few days there have been constant talks in the media of the urgent need to tighten the law, accelerate the judicial process in the case of a crime against a woman. And I agree it is needed, but will it be implemented when women in India are still seen as lesser than a man in traditions? NO, the change starts HOME, it’s respecting your mother and sisters as equal when you are a man, that means that they should eat at the same time as the men instead of waiting for the leftovers, that means festivals like Karva Chaut and Rakshabandhan should evolve too, why should a woman only fast for her husbands long life? The practice started centuries ago when the start of military campaigns were resuming at the end of the Monsoons and made sense then, but in today’s world? Men go to office the same as some women, and yet the one more likely to loose their life from doing so in a couple seem to be the woman, so enough with the whole concept, the festival should turn into a man and wife both wishing for a long life TOGHETHER, if one fast so should the other. Tying a rakhi? Why should the brother be the one offering protection to the sister in exchange of it? It becomes particularly ludicrous when the sister in question is much older and tying one to her 6 months old baby brother asking for his protection, what does that tell a girl? That she is weak and need a toddler to fight for her, that she’ll never be anybody without a man? ENOUGH! The festival should become yet again a mutuality thing, with siblings both tying a string to each other and vowing to protect one another, a tale of equals. And how is it that in India only a wife has to announce her marital status by wearing sindoor, glass bangles, toe rings and a Mangalsutra, while the husband gets to stay unadorned? Why is it that a widow is stripped of said ornaments and deliberately made to look like she lost everything while a man continue to be a man and have a life as a widower? Or you stop the practice for women or men start wearing marital attributes. Why is it that family honour should only be burdening the shoulder of a woman? has she committed such a sin to be born without the right genitalia that she should be blamed for every ills? If the man behave like an ass he isn’t brought to account, but a woman will even when she isn’t at fault.
More simply it once again boils down to the fact that baby girls are considered a burden and a liability, they are reminded so by antiquated patriarchal traditions all their life, while boys grow with an inflated ego and sense of importance they are not worthy of simply because they have a penis.
Pardon my French here but I say FUCK to that.
I have a daughter, and she will not be taught that she can’t do certain things simply for being a girl. Both my husband and I are however concerned about how things are going now, and we fervently hope things will change across the country, fully knowing that as parents of a girl it’s our job to raise her to be strong and proud to be who she is.
One great lady once said: No one should be made to feel inferior without their consent. her name was Eleanor Roosevelt.
Women of India, do not let any man in your life make you feel inferior…EVER, it starts at home, they have no right over your life and how you live it. You cooked the food, you deserve to enjoy it hot at the same time as the men in the house. You give birth to sons so your long life should be wished too, you go through child birth which means you are by no mean weak so why should you let your father, brother, and husband decide what you can or cannot do? Stand up for your right…NOW
Christmas came and went, and true to the line I wrote last year right after Christmas in my 2012 Diary, I kept it SIMPLE back then I had no idea we would be relocating right before Christmas of course, but the fact we just got out of the boxes was just the extra incentive I needed to avoid going overboard in the food department.
I threw some sambar onion with 8 chicken drumsticks in my Dutch oven, topped it with a small bottle of red wine and slow cooked it in a “Coq au Vin” style, made mashed potatoes on the side and in less than an hour I was done with it, got to sit down not feeling exhausted from preparing the dish, enjoyed some wine with our meal and watched Ishita enjoy the roller skates we got her as a gift.
Being so dead beat still from the move we didn't even try going to the mall to see Santa. Ishita got a gift from him in the morning for the first time but will have to wait until next year to meet her new idol, but she got her dose of Ho Ho Ho from the TV and books we have around anyway.
The simplicity of it all felt good even if I wished they’d remove the plywood boards from my balcony for my festive day.
Today Ishita got to try her roller skates outside and got the hang of them already, we enjoyed the garden in my new apartment building in the afternoon, and the boards did come down letting me enjoy natural light in my living room for the first time in a week this afternoon.
The picture above was taken today in the garden where they did decorate a potted tree for Christmas, but I of course have mine back up and decorated inside, just didn’t take any snaps yet.
We were deep in the boxes and dust all of December 20th and only got the last few things stored away this Sunday, right in the nick of time to celebrate Christmas, so here is an account of this last move.
On December 19th I packed a few boxes of kitchen stuff that DH drove to the new place while I was getting Ishita ready for school, then I took a few more bags and walked to the new place to start setting things up, as in our experience it’s the kitchen that is the worst thing to pack and set in every move we went through, the sooner you can get it out of the way the better. I arrived at the new place only to see that my to be living room was plunged in darkness as they fixed plywood boards to the grill to protect my place from the heavy work they are doing on the whole building’s exterior walls, a nice touch to want to protect me, but as I am writing this now we are still living with a pitch dark living room as the only natural light was coming through that balcony. Anyway back to the 19th, I got all the stuff I brought settled into the cabinets, removed the old granny curtains that came with the flat and washed the kitchen counter and the shelves inside the wardrobes in the 2 hours Ishi was in school, once we reached home I packed a few more boxes of kitchen stuff for DH and I to bring in the evening, by then we were happy to have brought about 90% of the content of my kitchen into the new place, we were then blissfully ignorant that the remaining 10 would drive us batty the next day, and decided to empty the bookshelves so they would be ready to be taken away by the movers the next day, and since we decided to go green we didn’t get much in the way of cardboard boxes, we have a whole lot of sturdy shopping bags and suitcases that we could load in the old flat and unload in the new only to be loaded again. So after filling up our bags with books DH decided to go do one more trip to the new place and dup his cargo in the place before we called it a night knowing the next day would be draining.
Comes the 20th, Agarwal packers and movers announce they would reach our place by 11am and we continue packing stuff, so far all things went well we were on track, seasoned pros at moving that we are, the maid seeing she was not really needed at the time with all the help we had went on with her day, and the movers packed all the stuff in the time Ishi was in school, that’s when we reached around 1pm that things started going crazy, the guy to set Aquaguard showed up in the old place where I was while DH was in the new place with the Tata Sky guy, the movers where still there, my dog ballistic, Dominos Pizza not offering online ordering at the time I needed it the most being low on cash and needing to order through credit card and I was to leave the place by 1.15pm to go pick up Ishita, we managed to pull it through, I ordered a pizza on the phone they assured me it would take 30 minutes but it reached 45 minutes later with the delivery guy lying to my face having been held up at the security desk when he actually bypassed it since I never got any intercom notice, the lady at the store put the manager on the phone who after seeing I would not budge and was decided on claiming my customer right to a free pizza yielded, told his delivery guy it was on the house, only for the guy to refuse to leave without at least 500 rupees stating against his manager order that I was eligible for 300 as a discount. I slammed the door in his face for him to come 15 minutes later with the security officer of my building to get his money and me to slam the door to his face, and them to stay there until DH came back to eat, the delivery guy extorted the whole amount out of my unsuspecting husband, an angry call later to the shop they promised to bring the money back but it never happened…guess who is never going to order from Dominos again?
After the pizza was wolfed down DH went to the new place with the packers and movers to get the furniture set while I had to stay behind with Ishita to pack a few stuff, I was done filling the bags and suitcases before DH was done with the movers and I had to wait idle in the mess and dust at home, and a toddler that refused to nap, seeing that I knew she would crash around 6-7pm and I would be left staying with her while DH did all the heavy lifting and that it would take us forever to move everything.
That’s when my maid saved the day, she came back at 6.30pm and seeing that Ishita had collapsed on the oriental rug in the the living room with her blanket and pillow, offered to help DH with the lifting and transferring, from then onwards they both did the back and forth in our car while I stayed behind filling the bags they brought back empty, by then the reality of it all hit us in the face: we had more stuff we thought we had and it was going to take far more time that we estimated. This is the first short distance move for us, we wanted to save cost on the packers and movers so we hired them only for the big furniture and not for the packing and carrying of our belongings. By 9pm I swore our stuff were procreating behind my back and that no matter how many things I packed no dent was make in the amount left to pack. DH and the maid to speed things up would just dump the stuff all over the new place to bring back the bags empty to me, with no order whatsoever. by 10.30 they were doing the last trip both feeling exhausted, and there was still heaps in the old place, but I admitted that even myself could not even align two words straight, my legs were numbs, and my armpits on fire due to the sweat and chaffing of fabric. I was covered in dust with black streaks all over and all I wanted at this point was a shower and my bed, boxes of crap be damned! So after their last cargo transfer DH drove the maid back to her place not wanting her to walk in the dead of the night, and then came to pick me and Ishi up along with a bag or two we still could carry.
The new place was in total disarray heaps of stuff were all over, and getting to the shower felt like an obstacle course but I was determined to get to it as my humanity depended on it.
We woke up the next day at dawn, DH went picking up a batch of stuff to the new place before getting ready to go to office, and I spent the entire day sorting out the heaps of mess, picked up Ishita in school, called pasta and jar sauce lunch, before tackling more of the mess, by the evening when DH came home I had cleared about 60% of it, I was dead beat once more starting to wonder if my legs would ever feel painless again, starving but with no food left in the house to eat apart from Maggi noodles. We were in bed by 9, facing another early rising to clear the two final batches of stuff from our old place before giving the landlord back his keys. DH then had to go back to office on Saturday as they had an urgent meeting he had to attend. During that time I cleared the rest of the mess, leaving only the 3 suitcases of DH’s clothes and belongings I had no idea where to store. As soon as he came back we headed to the supermarket to buy much needed food.
On Sunday I cleared the last box of stuff, the carpenter showed up to put up all the bathroom fittings and shelves and paintings we needed him to mount on the wall, the electricians came to fix the water geyser in one of the bathroom and they are to come back to install more plug points as the place is very deficient in this department. The plumber came to install a tap for my washing machine, and get instructed by DH on all the plumbing leaks we had in the flat (a lot of them since it’s an old building).
And now here I am on Monday still waiting for the plywood to come off the balcony, with my legs still hurting, totally drained but finally settled. Tomorrow is Christmas, and the plan is to make a Coq au vin style chicken in my Dutch oven with mashed potatoes on the side, and probably buy a cake as I have no energy to go into baking mode at this point. I actually find myself struggling to find my festive spirit back at this point. This move has been the most draining and taxing of all, we simply underestimated the amount of things we had and should have gotten more stuff in on the 19th than we did, and yet again we find ourselves hoping this move is the last one for a couple of years to come. And that it will definitely the last and only one to come a few days short of one of the major festivals we observe.
I’ll probably write a bit more about the new place later, tomorrow is a Holiday for me as you probably guessed.
even with a very short distance move like this one, there are a couple of things we just can’t do by ourselves, such as relocating the sofa, fridge and other massive furniture which means we can’t spare ourselves the expense of asking some movers to do the job.
We initially thought that hiring local guys would be cheaper, and our maid asked around in her area, two guys came on Sunday for the estimate, and their price for relocating a sofa, a fridge 2 shelves unit, 3 mattresses, a queen size bed and a chest of drawer over 800 meters: 17 000 rupees! When DH questioned it they explained thy have to hire a truck then they have to carry the furniture in the new building up the stairs as the lifts over there are too tiny for them, and they informed us we would have to arrange for protection material such as blankets and cardboard to wrap the delicate wooden ones. After negotiations and DH desperately trying to get the price below 10k they agreed for 11k. DH told them he will get back to them in a day, our idea was that it was worth checking some place else. I myself found it really weird that they would ask us to supply the packing material, and snorted at their whining over carrying a sofa up 3 flight of stairs, because I did just that during my 4 year long apprenticeship as a upholsterer / decorator, and 3 floors was nothing, our average for sofa delivery was 5 floors…so if me a WOMAN can do it and not whine, why should they use that as an excuse to rip us off of a couple of thousands rupees. Truth be told if the place was nearer and not up a hill on a busy road I would even carry all the damn furniture up myself and spare ourselves the hiring of a tempo or a truck, my only impossible one would be our giant fridge.
So anyway DH decided that it was costing us nothing to call Agrawal packers and Movers to get an estimate, we know them, we know their professionalism, and even if we in the end choose not to go with them, we have an estimate to work with and negotiate rates with local ones better.
In true Agrawal style they came on time to do the estimate survey, and quoted their final figure at 9.5k needless to say that DH took it, we can trust them, we know nothing will be damaged, that they will bring all the packing material they need and they didn’t even mind the fact they will have to climb 3 floors up with our stuff, we even added a few furniture pieces we didn’t ask the guys the maid found to carry and their price is still cheaper.
Along with their estimate they gave us the usual paper folder to put all move related things in, but this time I noticed they even improved it :
A check list for the client, not related to them but to all the things that one usually find themselves having to plan ahead when planning a move, a nice touch, especially for those relocating on long distances and who fortunately unlike us aren’t familiar with the hassle of relocating.
I particularly like their including things like : Select a Simple and light food for the day of leaving (we ourselves usually do take out to free ourselves from hassle), they also suggest the client keeps themselves free around the time of moving to meet family and friends who will want to have them over for dinner and say farewell. And of course they could not stress enough the importance of making address changes, disconnecting services such as phone, gas, electricity and the reminder to check all taps, and turn the main switch off when leaving the old place. They are small things that are easy to forget in the heat of the moment even if they seem like common sense in the first place, truth being that relocating fries your brain, so common sense things are the only likely to be forgotten if not written down on a list.
So here we are, all set and ready to shift, I packed a few boxes of books that will end up in DH’s brand new “Man’s den” (study room), most of the stuff are stricken off my lists and we are going to lug a few stuff up that hill tonight, hopefully by then the cleaning people will have swept that place and they will have finally taken the king size bed there is in one of the room apart so we can move our stuff in. My maid seeing I packed some boxes suddenly asked when I would empty the other shelves, not quite getting that since the packers and movers come on the 20th to take them away there is no point for me to empty them until the night before as there is nothing worse than crowding the space with boxes too much in advance. I plan to set up as much of the kitchen with her not around because I am quite peculiar about organization in that specific room and in all fairness even use it more than she do, so it’s my way or no way. I know she means well, but there are many things for which her help is really not needed considering we are also seasoned pros at moving from one place to another. there will always be enough cleaning and keeping Ishita entertained to do for her.
I am not sure if this blog post will be the last before the move, but there is a high probability that my next will by written from my new quarters.
Due to the packing and moving stress and the lack of creativity, I decided to tackle one of the many reviews that accumulated in my notebook, I haven’t eaten any new type of noodles in way over a month, and these past few days and the few next will be all about the good old comforting if we even eat Noodles.
Anyway that one I ate about 2 months back, I bought it even though the picture on the pack creeps me out (all the Smith and Jones variants have creepy cartoon faces on), true to my vow to taste all the type of ramen noodles on the market in India I had to try this brand as well, and I chose the good old masala flavour to try out first, this is by far the most popular flavour in India and you cannot not have a masala flavour to make it in this market.
First the smell of the taste maker: it is a bit citrusy, but has a strong hint of the masala smell you find with Maggi. Once you put it in boiling water the smell is however really odd, some sort of “fennel-y” kind.
Taste wise, it is in one word VILE, I kid you not I have never felt so strongly about any of the other noodles I tasted and I can’t even find one redeeming quality about this one. It has a bitter taste with a strong aftertaste of chilli, the noodles’ texture is gummy/spongy and I think I even detected a hit of rancid butter taste in the whole thing. The first time ever I threw the noodles away after 3-4 bites. Ishita was less kind, she spat it right out and ran for the water.
What scares me is that they have other flavours I will have to taste and review one day…oh dear!
The first time I hit the moving wall and felt the pain was in August 2011, you can read about it here. It was brutal, we were fed up, tired, it was the 3rd move in a year, enough was enough, we both swore we would not move for a couple of years, that was without taking the landlord’s choice into account of course.
Well here I am hitting another moving wall, we haven’t even started yet, well at least not started moving boxes. I have of course started planning, making lists, and trashing a few things we should stop hanging dear to, purging somehow brings peace to me, I’m the anti-hoarder, the more I can simplify and de-clutter the better I feel.
The fact I am no rookie in the whole packing and relocating department means I am also getting much better at it and with it the problem of finding myself waiting for the storm much sooner. This past month has been a blur, I vaguely remember we were setting things up for Diwali when the landlord casually informed us he was planning on selling the place and we’d better start thinking about moving out. It was November 12th, hard to believe just a month ago we were doing sparklers and flower pots and eating sweets. Since that date I have seen a parade of potential buyers all coming with the many brokers on the job, some days worse than other, but pretty much not a single day without a visit, I kid you not over 50 people have come and went. And I hate that part, they spend barely 2 minutes in the flat, half of the time they come un-announced, it always mean putting the dog on one of the balconies, having perfect strangers walk around your flat with you having to drop whatever you are doing to give them room to roam around at will. The agreement with our landlord was that the brokers should call him and he would then check with me, perfect in theory, but never ever in my life did I resented IST (Indian Stretchable Time) that much, because it doesn’t even matter that my landlord did specifically told them at which time I am home during the week they always seem to come there when I am not, leaving the landlord to call me to inform me someone is behind the door…and that is if they even bother calling him at all. Then there are those who announce that they will definitely come by a certain time, and show up 5 hours later not understanding why it is that much of a big deal. One of them is actually thinking is he above all and he can bring clients whenever, I have gone through many discussions with him and reported him to the landlord who in turn scolded the guy, it never fail, he will show up late, or not at all until the next day without even an apology. The first time he pulled his crap on me the landlord actually called me in the morning telling me this guy would come at 11am, nobody showed up and I didn’t fret, I just get on with my day period, so come 1.30pm and I leave to pick up my daughter in school, come back from the playground at 2.15 to find him and his client ringing my door bell. And when I pointed that he was supposed to come at 11 and I don;t wait on people he looked like I had landed on Earth from another planet, pissed I went all Swiss on him about the importance of respecting my timings and I can’t and won’t accommodate him. The landlord repeated the same to him, and since then he hasn’t kept his timing once, another day he was supposed to come at 5pm and showed up at 8.40, he woke up my daughter which just went to bed and didn’t even say sorry, and just yesterday he rang the doorbell having been un-announced while I was stepping in the shower. I slipped on my robe and told him crudely that first he need to announce himself and then to come back 10 minutes later because it’s shower time for me and I slammed the door in his face…he never apologised for it, his client did! And as I am writing this, it’s 12pm and he was supposed to show up with someone else an hour ago…I have half a mind not to open the door, that’s how pissed I am.
Anyway, all these visits serve only to remind me that this flat is going to no longer be my home and today it is even hitting me harder, we are getting the key by Sunday, I have a home accessories list to tackle tomorrow, making it a perfect excuse to be out of this house for the day and enjoy some fun time at the mall with Ishita who I frankly feel I have neglected a bit in all this frenzy. And because apparently just packing and moving is no longer a challenge for us, it had to fall around Christmas, and we even threw in a Jr Kg Admission Interview in for good measure (She got admitted, I might go back on that later once we settle in our new place), and because all the above combined is still not enough, let’s throw some PMS in! And perhaps the fact that the noise and dust from the construction site nearby has the nasty effect of giving me headaches and sinus aches (Go watch the video of the noise I posted on my Facebook page).
Right now I find myself completely neurotic, barking at my dog, screaming at my phone for ringing and urges to scream F… to just about anybody asking anything of me. I already effed the notion of a balanced diet, these days nothing but easy stuff like grilled cheese sandwiches (on brown bread which is the only saving grace they have), Christmas cookies, chocolate, and a truck load of fruits (at least that one is healthy) will do. I don’t want to cook anymore, I don’t want anything to come in the way of my sitting down for 5 minutes. I want this whole insanity to be done with…yet again! And the cherry on the top is the landlord that called last night to inform me of the visits schedule for today and asked casually “What are you planning to do for Christmas?”….Really? You send us a 30 day notice on November 20th and you ask that? I let him know that I would probably still be settling in the new place and just about enjoy sitting at home and do as little as possible, and that beside there wasn’t anything worth doing around here for Christmas. The thing to ask of all things!
Back to my chocolate for now!
DH pointed out a few months ago that will all the pictures I clicked from my old Samsung Corby and how I shared them on Facebook I might actually benefit more from a smart phone, not to mention all my post its, notes and organizing tools around the house. So I was slowly giving in to the idea of having one. Now those who know me, know that even if I appreciate technology and have a geeky side, I’m far more of a practical one than the one who will just buy the latest, priciest, hippest thing on the market, and my reasoning with the phone is that since my old one works fine, there is no urgency to upgrade anyway. DH heard through the grapevine at his office that they would heavily discount a HTC model in their store and asked me what I thought of it. It was the HTC radar which was a discontinued model, it seemed like a nice phone so I told him to go for it considering I’m not the type to want a particular brand and OS anyway, though luck had it that they went back on their word discounting it, and DH told me to look online to see what was there in the mid-range, Flipkart had the HTC desire c for 12k and DH was like “Get it now, no point waiting until Christmas”.
And that is how I got my gift early. I love my phone by the way, it’s simple to use, small enough to put in my pocket, didn’t blow the bank, has a nice enough camera, got myself the apps I need such as a shopping list and to-do list one, make full use of my calendar, bot the cute free apps one and the one that came with the phone. Ishita and the Christmas tree already got into Instagram, I can stop blowing up a fortune in sms with my friend thanks to whatsapp…I never thought I would find a smart phone so useful really.
DH got me into buying the monopoly game app as he wanted to play on it via Wi-Fi with me, but we found out that his iPhone support the Wi-Fi mode and the Android app doesn’t for some odd reason.
Not that I play games on it often, I already wasn’t doing it on my old phone, but the upgrade in internet capabilities and photo sharing makes it so worth it.
So here it is, Merry Christmas to me a bit early!
I was in no mood to write about more serious topics today, bear with me.
As I told you previously, we skipped St Nick this year and did have fun decorating the Christmas tree while cinnamon rolls were baking in the oven, perfuming the living room. This year Ishita was eager to help with the decorations and we took the last surviving string of cheap yellow lights we bought for Diwali (we had originally 2 yellow and one pink, the pink fried the instant it was plugged in, the other yellow one died a day after Diwali). I must say it looks far better than with the cold white lights I used the previous year, and the mix of blue and white I used in Navi Mumbai in 2010. This year that tree is going to have the distinction of being taken down on the 20th, moved to our new flat and being put back up right in time for Christmas, so we will have twice the fun, to to be frank I doubt I’ll get into baking mode then, it will probably the time to put some Christmas carols on though, the idea that the music will not be polluted by the loud and irritating drilling from the construction site anymore is appealing.
But enough about the tree, it’s up, it’s pretty and it really does the trick at giving a festive look to our place, what was the best part this year was this:
Cinnamon rolls! The aren’t really a Christmas treat in Switzerland, but more of a Sunday breakfast thing, but cinnamon has a festive enough smell and I was craving some…there!
I assembled them as a star before shoving them in the oven, but you can spread them on your cookie sheet so that they don’t stick together, that’s how bakeries usually sell them. The Swiss ones usually have ground hazelnuts and sultanas soaked in water inside along with the cinnamon, but I did them with just cinnamon and sugar this time, because I was too lazy to grind some almonds, and didn’t feel like waiting for the sultanas (white raisins) to soak and puff. I know that my friends in the US know the rolls with a thicker whiter icing that is often cream cheese based, we don’t do it that way in Switzerland, it’s just a light glaze of icing sugar, water and vanilla essence if you wish to add a little flavour to it.
So here goes my recipe:
500g of white flour (maida)
15g of dried yeast
1.5 table spoon caster sugar
60ml of warm milk plus extra fro kneading
1 small egg
30g butter plus extra for for brushing
1 teaspoon of salt
Cinnamon powder to taste
Icing sugar, water and vanilla essence for the icing
1) dissolve the yeast and sugar in 60ml of warm milk, make a well in the middle of the flour and pour the yeast-y milk in, cover with a little flour and wait for it to foam (takes about 10 minutes max)
2) Add the butter, egg and salt to the flour and pour milk gradually to form a soft elastic dough. Knead the dough vigorously for about 5-7 minutes folding and stretching to incorporate air in it. The put it back in the mixing bowl and cover with a clean dish towel and let it rest until it doubles in size.
3) Knock your dough back, and roll to rectangle of about 8-10mm thickness. Brush the flattened dough with melted butter. Then sprinkle powdered cinnamon all over, then add granulated sugar (then coarse one commonly found in India works very well) and if like me you LOVE cinnamon sprinkle some more over the sugar.
4) Roll your dough over itself to form a log by folding the longest side of your rectangle. Then cut slices in the log you just made, they should be about an inch thick, arrange them on a cookie sheet lined with baking parchment, or in the form of a flower/star like in my picture or spread them if you don’t want them to stick together. Cover them with a damp dish towel and let it rise again for about 15 minutes, meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200 degree Celsius.
5) Once the oven is hot, bake the rolls for 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Mix about a cup of icing sugar with a little water to make a paste, add a few drop of vanilla essence and drizzle over the rolls, let it set as the rolls cool down.
I challenge anyone to wait until the rolls are completely cool to take their first bite, because it’s impossible, there is something so appealing about warm bread.
In my picture the icing was completely done by Ishita who after seeing me drizzling a spoon over the rolls wanted to try, which explains why the center piece has so much more icing than the others, which was a good thing because that is the one we ate last 2 days later, the icing prevented it to become too hard.
I blogged about it last year, St Nicolas is a very popular festival in Switzerland that falls on December 6th and you can read all about it here.
I was all for doing it again this year, but for several reason I gave it a miss, the first is that even if I am not full in packing mode, this move looming on the horizon is stressing me out, then in an effort of not loosing on the Holiday season despite the move and our idiot landlord’s doing I squeezed a lot of cookie baking in the first week of December, and that alone would be enough to wear out just about anybody, but there is more.
Thanks to our landlord selling the flat and my learning that he is hoping to sell at an over inflated rate, I see a parade of potential buyers, on day we had 10 coming between noon and 7pm, even if they just stay barely 2 minutes in, it means stopping what you are doing to put the dog away on a balcony, open the door and stay out of their way, and then get the dog back inside once they left, until the next one. On occasion that even left me suddenly receiving a call from the landlord informing me one of the brokers was waiting behind my door while I was outside (at the playground), mind you no one told me one would come unannounced, and they don’t even see why that would be a problem. Well the problem is that getting a 3 years old away from the swing because one moronic broker brought some people to visit the place without warning anybody result into a screaming, fussy toddler and I am the one left to deal with it. It’s even more fun when the broker apparently pissed off at me not being there can’t wait the 3 minutes it takes for me to come upstairs and leaves.
On top of that, it seems that the construction site next to my place is in a jack hammering phase, it’s been a solid week of near constant jack hammer from 9am until 6pm, shutting all the windows doesn’t even help much, a thing I will be so glad to rid myself of in two weeks let me tell you!
Then PMS struck it’s nasty head this weekend adding to my neurotic response to stress…”Hulk Smash” anyone?
Despite all that I was still all set to bake a ginger bread cake yesterday and have a special dinner, that was until I saw Ishita being super whiny before going to school, which had me suspect or an early bed time or a long long nap in the afternoon.
it turned out that she crashed on the sofa at 3pm only to half wake up at 7, super whiny, by 6pm I decided that nobody would even be enjoying the traditional St Nick meal so I didn’t even get into baking mode. I got Ishi in the shower when she woke up, then made the oh super easy “Potato, Brinjal, Tomato” that doesn’t only turn out to be easy but is also Ishita’s favourite. By 9 she was back in bed, but woke up bored with it all 3 times in the night screaming for her ritual morning bottle of soy milk each time, leaving me sleep deprived.
This morning I was a mess, a PMS-ing zombie with a headache, so much so that by the time Ishi was in school, I first sat down in front of the TV watching one of my “Friends” DVD until an announced potential buyer came to visit the place, then set my alarm clock to 1pm and crashed down for a little over an hour, too exhausted to even chalk one tiny task off my to-do list.
Then Ishita decided to nap, and I went for a power one myself, before taking the Christmas tree out of the box and assemble it. I then prepared some cinnamon rolls and Ishi woke up right when they were ready to go into the oven. We then decorated the tree together and she then decided she wanted to apply the icing to my cinnamon roll, which we called dinner. It was a sort of St Nicolas spirit meal, which just helped me feel the holiday joy again.
I will post some pictures and recipes soon too, most probably starting Monday, as tomorrow is a Saturday DH is at home and we have a PT meeting in the morning, and groceries to buy in the afternoon. It’s nearing 10pm here and I really need some shut eye.
The English names of these two cookie types are “Milano cookies” and “Cinnamon stars” and they are 2 of the 4 most popular Christmas cookies in Switzerland.
When you think Christmas you might immediately think about ginger bread cookies often decorated with coloured icing sugar, more often than not in the form of the ginger bread man, while I have no idea where that one originated (probably Germany) it is definitely NOT how holidays cookies look in Switzerland, I have never baked or seen a gingerbread cookie in my childhood, that goes to say that each countries have their own holiday recipes.
The Swiss like their cookies less sweet, and apart from the Milano all contain more almonds than flour, and are usually also low on butter. The Cinnamon stars are made of ground almond, beaten egg whites and icing sugar and nothing else, you can find the recipe for that one here. And it is probably the most extravagant looking of the holiday cookies we have, mainly due to it’s glossy white icing, now to make this recipe I do two things differently, first I do not cut the shapes and let them rest overnight before baking, I let the whole dough rest in the fridge for a few hours, and then I do not apply the icing before baking as they mention, I tried it once, the icing cooks, powder and get a dull brownish hue, and this is not how this cookie should look, they have to have a bright white icing, so to achieve that I brush them as soon as they come out of the oven and let it dry.
The Milano is a golden cookie that is the only one made with big quantity of white flour and butter along with quite a few eggs, this is what give it its signature taste, you can find the recipe here. The cinnamon stars have to be cut in the shape of stars to be traditional, and I do not deviate from that. Milano can be of any shape you want though. We usually stick to Christmassy shapes like stars, moons, and trees, but also hearts and flowers.
This year I am going to do all 4 varieties of cookies, I did a bunch of Swabia cookies this weekend I will blog about soon, and attempt a batch of “Brunsli” which are rich chocolate and almond powder cookies, they are usually tricky as the dough gets sticky, and I never made it from scratch, but I will attempt it this year.
These 4 cookies are so famous in Switzerland that around the holidays supermarkets start selling the ready made dough in the cold section so that people can cut some time in the preparation (prep time is not funny for kids and I saw that Ishita is no different she looses patience with that phase). The good new is that all these dough freeze very well, so it’s possible to make them in advance, put them in Ziploc bag and freeze ahead of time, the thawing phase usually doesn’t take too much time either. This year I made some Milano in advance but since they are already disappearing fast from the box I will have to make one more batch.
All the ingredients are super easy to find in India, the only one being costly being Almonds, and you need to grind them yourself, so having a good grinder (and it’s a must have in India anyway) is a good idea. The almonds are ground with their skin too, this is what give the cookies they lovely brown hue. And they are perfect if you aren’t an Ace cookie decorator (like me who never gets piped icing right).
Then all you need to make it right is put them in metal cookie box, they will do in plastic too, but holiday themed cookie box just brings the right thing to your festive season decor, with that little retro feel.
Back home it is traditional to bake them in huge amount and gift some in small translucent cellophane bags to people around you be it family, friends or colleagues. I even remember one year when our elementary school teacher made us do some in school to gift our parents, that’s how much part of the holiday season they are for us Swiss.
December 1st, the holiday season has officially started in our home, and with it Ishita’s Advent Calendar is up on the wall for the 3rd year. This time I decided to fold little paper bags out of red and white paper, the original plan was to tape them to the wall in the shape of a Christmas tree, but then the landlord hit us with his 30 day notice which will have us out of this flat by December 20th, so since I didn’t want to just paste back 4 bags in the new place, I did come up with banners, that way when we move out, I’ll just remove them, and place the one with the remaining bags in the new apartment. I am angry enough that he is pretty much stressing me out during my holiday season, I don’t want us to miss on any of it because of that move.
This year I put mostly hair clips and bows in the calendar, first because Ishita is in a girly phase and love these, and then because that’s better than having to pick up trinkets of the floor the rest of the year (the little plastic fishes from the year before was a bad idea). I added a few chocolates in some of the bags and there are one or two necklaces since she is always after mine too.
Along with the Advent Calendar I already baked 3 batches of cookies with more to come, and I’ll post the recipes here very soon, as usual it’s not the time of the year for diet in our home, as for me December means baking time, cookie galore and ginger bread, there is nothing like the smell of cinnamon to celebrate the season and the finally there cool days and almost cold nights. It’s been 3 evenings in a row that I have welcomed back my socks like an old friend, and there is nothing like a fruit infusion sipped before bed time. Christmas is a family festival, one that has replaced the original Solstice festival. Here without the dark night to illuminate in hope of longer brighter days, it’s for me a time to welcome the most pleasant weather period in Mumbai, after a year of constant humidity and heat, and general feeling of discomfort, The end of the year always come as a huge blissful relief that is truly worth celebrating.
I was planning to write this yesterday, but I had a tiresome Wednesday so instead of packing yesterday’s precious 2 hours of me time with a blog entry I decided to apply one of my relocating tip : take time to relax. So I put my feet up made myself a nice cup of tea and watched a movie instead.
My relocating tips are the ones you apply after you found a place and are gearing up to pack and move, for us this phase always left us about 3-4 weeks between the day we knew we would shift to a certain place and the day packers and movers would come to pack our stuff. Now this time our move will be one without packers and movers, a way I am used to, because as told previously, if you relocate within the same city you enlist the help of friends for as much as you can and even in the case of an intercity or interstate move the moving company dumps box in your flat a couple of weeks in advance to let you do the packing. Anyway, in India should you move around the corner without packers and movers or at the other end of the country with their help there are always things that you need to plan. My tips below apply to moving within India first and foremost.
1) If you got the chance to see the flat you are going to move in beforehand, ask for a second visit if possible, take your measuring tape along with you and start visualising what goes where. That way you have the few coming weeks to prepare yourself, and by the time the packers and movers come in into the new place with your stuff, you can direct them immediately on where to put what.
I did one totally blind move over the years, the one that took me in the flat we currently live in and are about to leave. That was the hardest, I had 5 minutes to inspect the empty place before the first boxes and furniture arrived, in the end it went well, but I found myself frantically figuring out where I wanted my shelves and how my bed should face while directing other movers to other rooms with some boxes. The other nearly blind move was the Navi Mumbai, but I had a full day living in the empty new flat before they arrived, so it was till fine.
2) MAKE LISTS, as early as possible, make them in a notebook, and put everything move related as soon as it crosses your mind, it might seem silly, but if something such as “wash the curtains before leaving” strike your mind 3 weeks before the move, just note it down, the last few days leading to the move are hectic, and both physically and emotionally draining, and you would not believe how many times I was glad I wrote silly stuff a month before because they just slipped out of my mind as the time got near. And there is nothing more upsetting than unpacking something dirty in your new home when all you want at that point is to be done with it all and relax in your new surrounding.
I usually make 3 or 4 lists : “Things to organize”, “Before leaving this flat”, “In the new flat” and “Shopping list”, sometimes shopping goes in the “new flat list”.
The other reason why I make lists are that it allows me to clear my mind, even if yes I KNOW I’ll have to call the carpenter to put my shelves on the wall in the new place, the fact I write it down means I can stop worrying about it or mulling it over and over. It’s all there on my to do list so it’s fine.
3) If you are moving across the country and will get to spend time in the empty flat on arrival for a day before the movers come like it has been the case many times for us. Measure all your big furniture BEFORE they come and pack your stuff and keep a record of the measure in your relocation notebook (war plan as I call it). That way you can take your time on the first day to measure things in the new home and figure out if whatever vision you had will work or if you need to figure out a plan B. Again this may sound silly, but trust me from experience (and sadly we have far too much in the relocation department) the more you plan in advance the better, moving IS stressful, there are moments you will want to scream and kick, or collapse on the ground wanting it to be over with, so the more you can organize before finding yourself in the mayhem will ensure you’ll get through less battered.
4) I mentioned a shopping list, this may sound again stupid, but again, if you know you’ll need certain stuff in the new place like shower curtains, storage boxes, new buckets and mugs, chances are you can buy these before moving, and spare you some shopping trips, or the hassle to figure out where you can get these stuff if you are shifting to another city you know nothing about.
things that are always useful to have as soon as you are in your new quarters: cleaning supplies, clothes drying lines, clothes hanging clips, mops, plastic mugs and a broom. Or put it on a list separately and place an order with your local general store as soon as you arrive to have them delivered to you so you can clean up before the packers and movers come, or buy everything before hand and pack it yourself in a box labelled CLEANING SUPPLIES in bold. The last thing you want is to have to empty 5-6 huge boxes of kitchen supplies wondering where the hell they packed your stuff to finally find out they decided to throw them in a bathroom box.
5) Unless you have friends or relatives you can live in for a few days while in transit, prepare yourself for urban camping, we did it 3 times already, the air mattress we bought at a trekking and camping supplies store was the best investment, first we used them quite a bit in just that one year we moved 3 times while in transit, but they also come in super handy when you have more guests than you have beds in your house, and take far less space than even thin cotton mats you find in most stores in India. Pack a hot plate with the stuff that will travel with you, you’ll need it would it be just to make your cup of tea in the morning, and let’s not forget Maggi noodles which just about comes in handy in such time. The first two urban camping experience we packed real tea mugs, the first time we forgot plates and cutlery, had to buy them in plastic and paper, the second time we packed the plates with us as well, but they are heavy and take space and could potentially break in your suitcase, the last move we decided to go the paper cup and plastic plate route. We had 3 days in our empty Bangalore flat before leaving for Mumbai and we ate out a lot, but it still came in handy.
6) Start de-cluttering as soon as you know you’ll be on the move, even before the new flat is found if you can, the more time you have the better because that mean you can just tackle one area after the other on the span of several day. It’s amazing the amount of crap one can collect in a short amount of time, there hasn’t been one move so far during which we haven’t jettisoned some dead weight. This one will be no different, this is the perfect occasion to donate old never worn anymore clothes, throw away plastic containers you don’t have use for, and sort out your important papers,you’ll be surprised at how much you’ll find yourself getting rid of. And it’s all crap you won’t have to figure out where to store in the new place too.
7) I always end up writing things like “pay the milk man and newspaper guy” on my lists, let them know a day or two in advance that you’ll be leaving so that they can prepare your bill. That’s one of these small thing that if not written on the list I am sure to forget at the last minute, and it’s not fair to them to suddenly come one day to find you gone and a few weeks of milk or newspaper they’ll never get paid for.
8) Write down important phone numbers in your war plan as well, I always have a list of take out joints in there, as moving day and urban camping looms upon us you can bet we are in for easy food source. I also write down the various delivery service number’s we use to cancel them, because the last thing you want is frantically wonder where you put their business card at the last minute. I also kept the Tata sky number, the Eureka Forbes one and any of the known service at destination so I would not need to try to find them online, the fastest I have my Aquaguard set up the better.
9) If you really care about something…pack it yourself! Packers and Movers aren’t all careful with your belongings, and it’s better to wrap certain things in boxes yourself before they come. For us there was also the issue of books, we have books that we want in the shelves, and some DH want to hang on to but we don’t need to have displayed, the problem is that packers and movers can;t possibly know that, and they will just fill book boxes with book and mixing it all up, if you pack your “storage book” as such in boxes on your own and label them so, you will not have to sort out through heaps of books on arrival, the box labelled “storage” goes in storage, the one with books will go in the book shelves. We made the rookie mistake when we shifted to Navi Mumbai, we then had hours of sorting them out we could have spared ourselves, since they also found a pile of old magazines we wanted to throw away (but forgot to put it on the list) and threw them in with all the books, no fun figuring what was to be trash, what is storage and what is nice book when you are dead beat, want a shower, a clean home and food in our tummy.
10) Keep basic tools with you…at all time! Screw drivers, Allen keys, these are things you will need to fix certain things, the one you aren't;t taking in your suitcase, pack them in a box where you’ll find them fast and not at the last moment (along with the cleaning supplies works well). We have a Swiss army knife that has a interchangeable screw driver heads tool, that thing is by far the best thing we ever had, it has all the tools a Swiss army knife has and yes it comes in super handy during a move, and the screw driver thing is just added sheer genius, and it takes no space at all in the luggage.
11) If you are relocating across the country, pack you personal transit belonging in a suitcase the night before the movers come, keep the suitcase shut with everything you will need for 2-3 or more days in transit in there including important papers and valuables such as jewellery. Put all the stuff that will travel with you in one corner of one room, and give the packers and movers the express instruction not to pack these, keep checking during the day that they are following said instruction. And when I said keep everything you need for you own trip shut I mean it, during our Bangalore to Navi Mumbai move I di leave my towel on the top of the suitcase after my morning shower, DH left his jeans, by the evening I had no towel for my evening much needed shower and DH had no clean jeans to wear the next day to head to the airport, they packed everything that was not in our bags. And while we are on the topic, put all keys and AC remotes that belong to your landlord in your purse before they come too, and write on your list that you should hand them over to the owner of your premises while checking out. What good would that be to have an AC remote from your Mumbai flat you no longer live in and find out about it in Bangalore simply because you forgot about it and the packers and movers packed it? Sure the owner can replace it, but it’s a question of principle, there are enough lousy awful uncaring tenants that do things on purpose, don’t make the statistics grow and give a reason to your previous owner to be wary of tenants. It takes 5 seconds to write it down as early as you can on your list, 5 seconds to remember to keep these away on D-day and another 5 seconds to read your list and hand them over to your landlord when you leave.
12) Last but not least, and probably the most important tip: TAKE TIME TO RELAX…everyday. Each time you feel overwhelmed or ready to blow up, stop what you are doing, even if it is not move related, and just do something fun: watch TV, go for a walk, go shopping, go for a hair cut, pedicure…whatever rocks your boat…just DO IT. I’m not kidding when I said moving is stressful, don;t try to be a hero, nobody is going to give you any prize for stoically going through your stuff and hours of planning. Beside wonder woman and superman are fictional characters, they do not exist and you should not even think you can do it all. because here is a breaking new: nobody can do it all. You can’t plan a move be a good wife/husband, mother/father, domestic goddess, corporate worker, and handyman at the same time…so give yourself a break. The world is not going to end if you don’t clean the whole place up in a day, you aren’t committing an inhumane crime serving leftovers or calling freezer food a meal, or for just not wanting to cook at all and ordering take out…in fact as part of the “RELAX” bit, just do it, make take out a friend on a bad day.
As announced earlier today on my Facebook page, the flat I was mentioning in my previous entry is ours. The measures of the door frame indicated we can slide the fridge through, even without removing the handles, the dog is allowed and they will remove the two beds we don’t need.
Now we already told our maid the good new since the flat is a 5-10 minutes walk up the hill from our place and she already told me that we have to let her know in advance when the big move day will take place so she can book her whole day off to help us. I have myself started making lists of all the things we need to organize, plan, do and buy for that move and my “external hard drive” is back in business.
This morning my maid was in a discussion with DH about boxes and stuff and he told her that boxes will not be necessary, we have enough bags and basket around to stuff things into, beside since it’s a highly local move we don’t need packers and movers, just deal with the idea of making a few back and forth trips with our car. Turns out our maid might be even more of an organization freak that me (if that was even possible) so she flooded my poor husband with planning ideas, and such which for most conflicted with my war plan, her thing is that we should pack and unpack the kitchen last so that she can cook…GASP hell no!
First the new flat has no piped gas, so we need to take a connection for a cylinder, to do that we need to have the registration paper for the new place, which will come close to the move, and subsidized gas companies take weeks to process things, so we are fully aware that we will have no cooking gas for a while and we know the drill. Then the kitchen has a huge hole in the counter, the owner might have had a cooking range, so we need to buy a small table to wedge in that spot to place our counter top stove on top, that will probably be a last minute thing too as we need the key in hand to go measure the spot and buy something and have it delivered there. And last but not least from our sadly way to extensive knowledge on the packing and moving topic, we know that we will not care about eating home cooked food in plates on D-day, experience had it that we are far happier and more relaxed outsourcing the food issue to a restaurant doing take out, beside if the maid cooks she is in the way of storing things in the kitchen anyway, not a good idea to do any food preparation until the flat is more or less settled. But yes to her this is an alien notion and I can get it.
The other sad but true fact learned from earning our veteran badges in relocating is that of all the rooms the Kitchen is the messiest to pack and settle, so the earliest we can get it done the better, and this time the short distance is all working in our advantage, we can even if we get the keys a few days before “Massive D-day” get a few bags of things bring them up the hill, store them away quietly in a still clutter free place and be done with it, beside no one really need the entire content of their kitchen until the last minute, all we might at the most need until the last minute is the hot plate, the electric tea kettle and tea mugs, so that both DH and I can have our own version of what we call tea/chai. I could not care less about cooking dal and sabzi while in the boxes, all sweaty and tired, leave alone eat it, so all my pantry food can safely go away early, beside even on a short distance move it matter far more to eat all the content of the freezer before the move and leave as little in the way of fridge perishables as possible, so chances are the fridge will be bare by D-day and running to the market to buy food will definitely not be on our agenda the evening of the great shift anyway…having a nice shower to clear the sweat and dust away followed by a collapsing on the sofa on the other hand will rank very high on the priority list that evening.
As sweet as my maid is, I think I’ll have to don my household minister and general hat and set boundaries. DH is blissfully clueless about the planning phase since he didn’t have to deal with it at all in the past move alone and I gave him a short summary of it in all the previous moves understanding that as a SAHM and Housewife the management of the house is my full time job and he as a typical office going man could not be bothered about the necessity of making lists that include : buy mobs, keep all important papers in one place, and buy some storage racks and adhesive hooks for the kitchen, especially when they go on the list 3 weeks before the actual move. From my experience these small things don’t weight much in the boxes, and you are always super glad to have them beforehand because there is nothing more annoying than have half your house cluttered with knick knack that could have been stored immediately if you had been prepared with the right tools.
This time around I also clearly have an edge over DH in expertise, see we mostly did long distance relocations, only one was within the same city back in 2005 but it was across town and we had no car so we had to hire a packers and movers company to relocate 3 box of stuff and 4 plastic chairs (oh those where the days!).
In Switzerland people don’t hire movers unless they relocate to another city and moving companies back home do NOT pack your stuff, you need to contact them weeks in advance for the estimate and they will then give you boxes that you pack yourself. Needless to say that you generally enlist the help of friends and family to move in Switzerland. I moved once within the same city, and helped friends do it to, so I know how that works, I know how a minimum planning goes a long way when you end up having to do a lot of back and forth with a car to move things, and what the priorities are like in such time and it seems that the years of joint experience DH and I have moving our stuff across India plus my many experiences of helping friends pack and move as well as my own Swiss move has me have old instinct I never really had to use before kick in this time around.
I probably will write some entries with simple tips to plan a move ahead of time in the next few days…and it seems the relocation label on my blog will start to disturbingly creep to the top of the list who would have known?
Now when I was a new to India, that was exiting, it was new, it was different, it was good, even in Mumbai. Now several moves later it’s daunting, depressing, and brain racking considering not only we are tired with the process, but the prices went up and we have far more belongings to fit in the equation (not to mention more people and different standards to go with them).
So as stated, we are in the market for a 3BHK, simply because in Mumbai the space constraint is huge and the 2BHk we are in right now is one we lucked out on when it comes to space, it’s still 40k and starting to be far too costly for the mere 900sq ft of carpet area we have for the price.
A thorough search of prices trends indicated that we could get an extra bedroom for about the same rent price if not lower, but real estate websites and classified lie big time in India, and never ever think that the square feet mentioned on the page is the amount you’ll get in your flat. Brokers lift these numbers straight from the developer who hand them the “build up” area numbers, because when you buy a flat in India you pay for the carpet area surface as well as a portion of the lobby, common area and hallways, so for a flat that announce a glorious 1500 square feet, you are more likely to have living quarters of about 800.
Back to Saturday, we had an ad that was stated as posted by an owner for a flat in one building we liked, when we called he informed us it was in fact the building right next to it, and told us to meet at further down that road at a easily spottable landmark. There we met the guy who told us that the flat we were interested in was no longer for rent but that he had something else in a nearby building…yup he wasn't an owner as claimed, but a smart ass broker who found a way to rope in people who wanted to avoid their very service! Stuck with him we visit the said flat, in a gloomy complex, that I knew from the outside would not give us much to enjoy, the flat had a giant living room, 3 bedrooms so tiny no bed could fit in them, rickety wardrobes, and a kitchen with no cabinets, no utility space, and I swear the architect who designed the place must have realised at the last minute that he forgot the bathroom, he squeezed in two that are not even straight but in bizarre triangular zig zaggy shapes with odd angles. Guaranteed to make you feel claustrophobic even if you were not. Needless to say we passed on it, when we told him we were interested in another bigger more modern society, he told us he had no idea if there was anything there at all and would call us back later.
Which he did, announcing he had found 2 there but that the market was tight in the area and there wasn’t much at all. I found that super odd considering I found a lot on the website listings. Anyway by late afternoon we were there, we first visited one in the oldest of the tower, a ridiculously tiny kitchen greeted us, were no fridge would fit, a tiny hall, and 3 impossibly small bedroom and 2 bathrooms with door so narrow I wondered if I would fit through. No utility space, nothing and only one old super rickety metallic wardrobe…no thanks. The second one was within the same complex in a newly constructed tower on the 17th floor, the kitchen was decently sized, just had no space for a wider than average fridge, but it could fit in the hall, bedrooms were decently sized for Mumbai, but the bathrooms were again narrow and there was no utility space, the washing machine could not even pass through the narrow bathroom doors, but there was still some solutions to be found there, the deal breaker was that all windows were low easily climbable by a toddler and there was no grill or guard preventing a child to plummet to their death, we have a toddler that is hyper active, I kid you not I spend the whole day running after her, finding her escalating furniture and getting bruises on her legs from her antics, a flat where she could lean over the window frame with no safety measure into place is a giant fat big no no, and apparently the housing co-op allows no installation of safety grills on windows…pass, next please!
At this point the masquerading broker had nothing else to show us, but our own broker through which we found the flat we are staying in right now called saying he was on his way to meet us in that complex we were visiting, he immediately whipped up his brand new tablet to check which one were there and which one we saw, informed us that he had one more he could show us right away. It was the same floor plan as the first one with no bedroom space, no utility space and tiny all, so we gave it a thumb down. He then told us that without having to make calls he had two more in our budget in his list, both in the very enclave we live in but in two different societies as ours have no 3 BHKs. The first one was in an older building, clearly darker than the more modern ones, but rooms were big, it was semi-furnished, had a one big veranda like balcony, and the only issue would be that our big fridge would have to go in another room rather than in the kitchen (a common issue in India even with a regular sized fridge anyway), but it had a big utility area for the washing machine, 3 bathrooms and was priced at 36k!!!!! In a quiet area of the enclave too. We loved that one instantly, it might not be glossy, open and state of the heart but the place seem to have a soul and some potential. We had one more to see though, and it was in the newly not yet fully built society in the enclave, the highest priced too at 45k, that one was a joke, granted the rooms were big, the kitchen had zero cabinet, just the granite counter and sink, nothing under the counter, nothing above and the kitchen was tinier than in our current flat too, two bedrooms had windows giving like the living room straight down on the construction ground, meaning that day and night we would hear noise ranging from mild hammering and drilling to deafening jack hammering, and see the crane dangle cement containers inches from our windows from time to time, the 3rd room was tiny and window less! No wardrobes were installed, it was completely bare in the barest sense of the term…no thanks. By then it was 7.30pm, I was tired so was Ishi and we pretty much made up our mind about the older flat we saw, the only issue that stroke me was that to glide sideway through the door my fridge still needed some space, we agreed to visit it again the next day after I measuring the fridge at home, at first I measured 31 inches which could mean it could be tight in a normal door, but found out that the handles can be removed and that brings it down to 28 inches. I need to go back there today and measure the doors but it seems there is some hope, we also want to see the flat in natural light too since we visited it when it was already dark enough but it sounds like right now the only thing that could still stand in our way is a) the owner doesn’t want tenants with a dog and b) refuse to take out the two double beds we don’t need.
So the ordeal isn’t really over, but the idea of almost being done with it is a good one, and to be shifting about 800 meters away from my place in a cheaper bigger place without having to buy wardrobes and arrange for a school car pick up service in the middle of the year is worth having to give up having the fridge in the kitchen and a bit less light through the windows seem like a super mild compromise for Mumbai, heck even the bathrooms there which are “wet rooms” can still get shower curtains and look better. So right now I am keeping my finger crossed that from the owner’s side all is well, and that we can get going and plan our move.
Winter in India means more green leafy veggies on the market, and for the past few years that also means lettuce leaves.
When I moved here in 2003 there wasn’t any, and one thing you should know about the Swiss is that we are a salad happy bunch, we eat a side salad with our meals, a big tossed salad is often considered a lunch in Summer. We have iceberg lettuce as a favourite in Spring and Summer, and darker bitterer leaves in the Winter (some I suspect belonging to the same family as methi). DH often joked that people must be part bunny or goat in Switzerland judging by the size of the salad counter in most canteen and restaurant, if that says something about our fresh leafy green obsession there.
So with that in mind imagine how though that was for me to go without in India, what people call salad in India is a few slice of tomato and cucumber on a plate, in Switzerland that would be an appetizer course served with a dip, not a salad.
Fortunately for me, variety came in the supermarkets over the year, and I can’t tell you how happy I was the first time I saw a few leaves of iceberg lettuce sold in cellophane in my local supermarket, I could have stumbled upon the holy grail and it would not have been any different. Back then it was a few leaves, but now if you go to a nice enough supermarket or gourmet store in a big city you will find more : curly leaves lettuce, iceberg, oak leaves…And as I stated last year sharing my aloo methi salad, methi leaves are awesome eaten raw too.
This week I found a big fresh plump oak leaf lettuce and here is what I made with it the first day:
A strawberry, tomato and walnut salad. Because in India not only are the lettuce leaves in season in Winter, so are the Strawberries, and let me tell you the combination above tastes great, I used to put apple and pear bits in my salads back home, why not try with strawberries? I just made a dressing with one table spoon rice vinegar and 2 table spoons olive oil, added some salad seasoning herbs and drizzled it all over the salad. That bowl made two big fat serving of salad, one I called lunch, one I ate for dinner along with some grilled chicken. The rest of the week I made another salad with apple chunks and what’s left of the lettuce is still in the fridge with some walnuts, I ate some last night to go with my version of sausage and beans known as “cassoulet” back home (DH loved it).
And one of the thing that is so great about Winter in South India is that winters are quite mild, which means days are still warm enough to enjoy calling a salad a lunch, in Switzerland it becomes a side dish as soon as the mercury starts dropping and the hours of sunlight shrink.
I was planning to have a light easy foodie post today, but a bomb got dropped in DH’s mailbox and that warrants a blog post from me.
As I mentioned last week our landlord announced that he was planning on putting the flat on the market for sale and we were taking precautions starting to look, thinking that we had time…well not so much.
This morning DH read a mail from the landlord stating that he is terminating our lease and we had a 30 day notice. Nothing wrong there, it’s legal, he abides by the notice stipulation on our rental agreement.
The problem is that this guy will apparently remain tactless until the end, let’s set aside the fact he refuse to accept the whole rent amount in cheque so he can screw income tax, that’s not just tacky it’s illegal. But his calling ON Diwali day to tell us he is selling the place is already not so nice, the fact that now he is sending us an impersonal email announcing we are to be out by December 20th is just crass…while I understand the email bit as a protection thing and yes sending one was a good idea, it would have been far nicer to inform us by phone he did so, just common courtesy. And heck his knowing I am a foreigner should have clued him in on the fact I celebrate Christmas and maybe just ask us if it was ok for us or if we had any plans during the holidays, again just a little courtesy, it would have not killed him to ask, I would certainly not have been totally apposed to moving out of the flat 4 das before Christmas, but his not showing any consideration and dropping a e-bomb via Gmail on us early in the morning is just wrong. Knowing the guy I am sure he is going to try to claim some deposit money for himself, and I am so mad right now that I know I can give him hell for that and probably will.
In the meantime, we are now going to have to find a place we like quick, as mentioned we are looking for an upgrade in number of rooms and found out our area has 3BHKs at a cheaper rent than that 2BHK we are currently in. I now need to squeeze moving out into my Christmas holiday list, think of how to turn my advent calendar plan into a more mobile one, order some new wall stickers for Ishi’s new room to facilitate her transition, as it would not be too good to unsettle her more than the minimum now we finally got her to sleep in her own bed. My black book will come out of the drawer with war plans drafts, and if I didn’t have an incentive to keep this year’s Christmas meal simple, I now have, if we move out on the 20th, you can bet I will not want to kill myself cooking a feast while in post relocation trauma mode, granted it’s a short distance shift, I doubt it will be any less stressful than an of the other shifts.
Happy Holidays to come to me!
This Sunday I was busy dealing with hyper and distraught daughter and trying to get household stuff done as out maid has been on leave for a week, that i didn’t get to sit down with the Sunday magazine called HT Brunch that comes with our newspaper. I mentioned it before, but there is one columnist I love to read in there every weekend: Seema Goswami, and as usual she had a witty piece for me to read this Sunday, which I read this Monday morning. It’s all the things she hates about Diwali.
The firecrackers, the commercial aspect, the forced social obligation of visiting as many people you can…these are some of the one she dislikes. As you know I find the crackers beyond annoying, and yes I find the commercial aspect getting more and more ridiculous by the year…and she put it in words very nicely in her article.
I think what irk me the most about the commercial aspect, is that once more it apes the worst behaviour from the West, and we Westerner are blamed for having introduced India to that mass consumerism. Never mind that India had a choice, we are the bad guy. But yes I made parallels between the commercial aspect of Diwali and Christmas.
Believe it or not, minus the crackers and the card games, I hate all the same things she hate about Diwali when it comes to Christmas and then some more. What I have witnessed before leaving for India and through my friends back home and on Facebook, is that the West is correcting some of the madness while India is still blooming into it. Diwali and Christmas share many common thing, first thing first, they are both festivals of welcoming the light after the darkness. Christmas happens in December around the solstice time because the early Christian needed to graft themselves into an existing festival. The Winter solstice is the darkest time of the year, people gather, light candles, feast and pray for the light to come back. Jesus is a symbol of hope to humankind for the Christian as well, he was sent to Earth to save us, at a time where the darkness of the Roman empire was upon the middle East, so the theme of the bearer of promise and light is maintained even in Christianity.
We share time with family, the same way people celebrating Diwali do, we exchange gifts to wish each other a prosperous year to come, and back before it became commercial, gifts were home made, they were useful, they were cherished and precious: oranges, nuts, home knitted sweaters and socks…Meals at that time of the year were rich full of promises of longer days to come, and best enjoyed shared with loved ones, prepared with love. See as I said, similar to Diwali.
Yes it is now commercial as hell, and I remembered loathing hearing Jingle Bells in November knowing that by the time Christmas would arrive I would hate it. I hated the social obligations that went with the holiday season: the annual office dinner, the various club’s annual dinner, the mighty family quarrels about who get to host the Christmas feast, in my family the quarrels were so epic that for the sake of our sanity, we were the one celebrating 3 times, my family was the only one living in Geneva when the relative stronghold was in a neighbouring city about 30 minutes away taking the national highway, so the 23rd was just us at home, the 24th we would pack overnight bags to go to my paternal grand parents to eat dinner there and sleep over, the next morning we would drive down town in the same city to go to my mom’s folks for a Christmas lunch and by the 26th we were too pooped and stuffed to want to do anything. By the 27th we had our ski gear packed to head to a communal chalet for the New Year celebration. After my parent’s divorce it was 4 celebration, because both my mom and dad kept arguing the thing with their own parents, none wanted to come to Geneva, leaving us to do all the travelling again. The one year my parents succeeded getting everybody into our home was the worst, my paternal grand parents complained we were doing it all wrong doing a 25th December Lunch instead of celebrating Christmas eve, my maternal grand ma liked the date and time but complained her daughter was not making the meal she was planning to make, everybody complained about the smoked salmon toasts that was OUR own new little family tradition, because it was too fancy, then there was complaint about the time we lit the tree, the fact we bought gifts for people that wanted none, and then some rushing my mom into tea time because they didn’t want to reach home too late with all the driving…by the time they left my mom was fuming and glad to have them gone and the next year we sucked it up again and did all the travelling and overeating…since it was by far the lesser of two evil.
What was not done into my family was the abundance of gifts, we had some, of course, but starting November my dad would come up with a craft project my sister and I could make each so that every grand parent and relative would get something that was made with heart, I kid you not all of the hand made craft projects we made over the years are still used till date by both my grand ma: cane woven bread basket, painted wooden hanger, wood clad giant match boxes, enamel paint coasters…My sister and I of course put a toy list together, in Switzerland Santa isn’t done, the gifts come from the family, Santa is celebrated as St Nicholas and put dried fruits and nuts into kiddo’s shoes on December 6th. But we would only get one gift, two max from each person, my grand parents would do two, one was from our wish list, the other was a silver spoon or knife or fork to complete our silverware set that would be ours to use by the time we turned 21 (lowered to 18 once the majority age was lowered), this silverware tradition is still practiced to some extent for girls, but less than it used to in my childhood days.
The 80’s was the decade of decadence and when the whole commercial Christmas idea peaked, Christmas back then had to come from a store, the Christmas decoration displays in stores were huge and started in November, real pine trees on the market as soon as we turned to the December page on our calendars and public plazas turned into forests when the pine tree market craze started. The only thing people really still baked for Christmas then was cookies, but with ready made dough from the store.
The 90’s saw an improvement, a small recession hit us, people wanted to keep it simpler, more authentic, decorations were more natural looking, the displays in stores shrank in size, and the German trend of Christmas markets started, with artisans displaying their products: hand made candles, home made organic jams and dips, mulled wine booth, eco friendly Christmas decorations…traditional home made cookies sold in pretty boxes…people went back to celebrating simpler things.
If you ask me it is still overly commercial, and yes stores start putting a show in November still, but compared to the decadence of the 80’s and to an extent the very early 90’s things have mellowed down, department stores are putting less offers and suggestion for gifts, the mail in catalogues are far thinner than I remember them to be as a kid. What’s left is the big meal feast and family feud, but gifting insane and costly items for the occasion seems thankfully to be on the decline.
As an expat, Christmas is important to me, it’s part of my cultural heritage, but the things I love the most about it is the building of anticipation during the month with an advent calendar, the cookie baking, the Christmas tree, and celebrating with those I love, since gift giving is a tradition and is deep rooted in the celebration, I do it, but thanks to my parents I too keep it simple. This year Ishita will probably get some roller skates because she has shown quite an interest into them for a few months, and that will probably be it. With our probably having to move out of the flat soon, I am not sure if DH and I will exchange gifts this year and I am fine with it too. Cuddling on the sofa might end up being just what the doctor ordered anyway.
I’ve never ever been grounded, I never abused my parents authority to deserve it and yet this is the situation I find myself in this weekend, but not grounded because I disobeyed my parents, nope, I had to move to India to experience on several occasions what a “Bandh” or shut down is.
It usually happen only because some political extremists enforce a reign of terror regarding an issue or another.
I got the Kannada activist bandh that left me without cable TV a few years back in Bangalore, they were contesting a border between Maharashtra and and Karnataka, then Bangalore was on lockdown in 2006 because actor Raj Kumar’s death triggered riots, when we were in Navi Mumbai the Shiv Sena called for a Bandh to protest petrol price hikes in the State, and this weekend it’s the same party that has completely thrown my Sunday out of whack…the reason? Their veneered leader died at the ripe age of 86!
The news went out on Saturday, DH hurried home from office to catch one of the last auto still on duty before Mumbai became a ghost town. Shops shut down, some voluntarily, but many because some party goondas made them to. The problem with the Shiv Sena is that they can’t tolerate anybody having a different opinion and take on life, so basically they want to mourn their leader, and so should the rest of the State of Maharashtra, and the best way to ensure it is done is to terrorize shop keepers in staying closed, and citizen to fear going out, pelting buses with stones being one of their tactic…nope we have no choice but “respect” a leader that despised the majority of people living in Mumbai for not being from the State of Maharashtra! Mumbai he claimed belong to maharati people, preferably Hindu as well, so all other faith people should be taken out, North, South and East Indians too, they are polluting the city, they are stealing jobs from the locals. His goons spread terror, resorted to violence to punish those who publicly stated another opinion and today was no different.
Some buses have been reported to have been pelted with stones, the city lived in fear of the guy and shut down, cable TV operator blocked all entertainment channel…Bal Thackeray is dead, you can’t watch silly TV, you MUST mourn, too bad if you are Muslim, Christian or North Indian, if you won’t mourn, then at least the bandh acts as a punishment for you guys to be making a living in the city that should belong to Maharati people and them only.
Today was the only day off in DH’s week, we had a massive list of groceries to tackle, hoped to start visiting some flats for our plans of shifting, but nope we couldn’t do it, we don’t care for the guy, he despises DH’s kind for being North Indian, probably would want me out for being Swiss and argh daring to give birth to a mixed child in Bangalore, so for us, the bandh was punishment. We had no fruits no vegetables left, just a little milk, and no soy milk for my lactose intolerant daughter. No bread either. I baked one using imported yeast I used to contaminate local flour (ha ha take this!), DH made Maggi Noodles and that was it. We have Tata sky, so we could watch fun TV, and by the evening DH went on a hunting expedition to find sustenance after we learned our supermarket would be closed until Tuesday, as apparently a whole day of being locked at home was not enough, after all it seems God himself died so we should at least renounce fresh produce for 2 days. Schools will remain closed on Monday (educating people is certainly not a priority), DH hasn’t received words from his office going on the bandh wagon, but if he can’t get an Auto, he won’t go because it will not do good to be out in a city where a political party of highly xenophobe nature is mourning…certainly not in a car with plates from the State of Karnataka and a driving license issued in the State of Uttar Pradesh!
Meanwhile Ishita will have to do without her soy milk, we found none, I made emergency supply of rice milk, using the last cup of brown rice I had in my pantry in an effort to keep some nutritious food into her…she refused to drink it, was upset at the lack of “bleh” as she calls soy milk…and how do you explain to a 3 year old she can’t get it because an 86 year old disturbing man died and has his followers ensuring we should all pay attention to him? How do I explain that to my daughter who I swore once I would want her to be proud of an India without corruption and divisive policy?
Right now I am mad for being grounded, like the sulky teenager who broke the rule, except, I didn’t do anything to deserve being grounded. Mad to have some goons decide I should mourn a guy that made no secret of admiring Hitler…
On Diwali day our landlord called to say that he put the flat on the market for sale, and that a potential buyer will come with his broker the next day to visit the place…I am not sure when he put the place I am not sure when he put the place on the market, but the fact there is already buyers wanting to visit means it has been there for at least a few days before he called us.
With this we are now facing relocation. Not that we were not thinking about it, the lease increase 10% every 11 month, and we are now on lease number two at 40k a month for a 2BHK, that would still have been ok if the landlord was not once again screwing the income tax people and us, by asking us to pay a significant amount of said rent in cash and declare about half the rent we pay him to the tax people, leaving us in a fix as we can’t declare the full amount we pay him on our tax form and…yup end up paying his taxes.
The whole “flat on the market” thing is just going to speed up our moving out and getting rid of our cheating landlord, beside we found out that for 35k we can get a 3BHK not too far from where we are staying, and we realised that we really need that extra room since Ishita has now fully claimed her room and sleeps in there every night. DH needs his computer desk to work from home at night, meaning we need a study room, where he can also put his music on without risking to wake up Ishita.
Now the problem with all this, is that the move could come very shortly, DH has already been looking at listings yesterday and said he found one ad posted by an owner instead of a broker, we are going to visit that place the weekend to see how it looks, the other issue is that most flats in Mumbai come without wardrobes, we got lucky until now, but we will probably have to buy some at one point or another, and we will have to by AC units as well by the time Summer hits us again in February, in this flat we were lucky to have them provided by the owner. And of course as always there is the issue of deposits, landlords ask for 8-10 months worth of rent, and rarely release it before we hand the keys, a thing that always left us in a bit of a fix when we needed to give one month notice, and try to negotiate with the owner of the new flat on when the deposit will be in his hands, most generally don’t like putting their property on hold for a guy that will only be able to pay the deposit 2 weeks later.
I’ll probably have more on this whole thing later, right now I’m not even sure if we will be spending Christmas in this flat or in the next one, or how we are going to manage the whole thing, the only positive is that it’s a move in the neighbourhood, so we will be able to transfer a lot of our breakables and small items in our car in several trips, and avoid us the hassle of unpacking many boxes packed hastily by unprofessional packers and movers, as for such a short distance, we aren’t going to pay premium for a big company.
We also have the many years of experiences in the relocating department to give us strength, we’ve moved across the country 7 times since 2003, and only one of these move was within the same city, all the others had us move to a different State. The flat we stayed in the longest was for 5 years and it was our beloved rooftop terrace one, which we both still find ourselves missing awfully even now. The flat we are staying in right now is the second one we stayed the longest in so far, we are now at one year and 3 months.
Right now I think the wise thing to do would be to start drafting a war plan again, with the usual preliminaries: throw away junk, write lists of all the tiny things to do such as remembering to take back all our CFL bulbs, but the advantage of moving within a 3-4km radius, mean that even if the packers and movers pack things like the AC remotes, we can easily bring them back to the owner, and it also means no urban camping, which is the thing that took the toll out of us in our previous move.